Google Glass

Looking past: A South African Glass developer on Google’s change of vision

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Technology giant Google made a rather surprising (although probably not unexpected) announcement last week that it’s much-publicised Google Glass will no longer be developed in its current form.

Glass is seen as a bit of a pioneer in the field of wearable ocular technology, and several South African developers have invested time and money in the system creating apps and figuring out how to turn its tiny display into an info-powerhouse. We caught up with one such, Joburg-based development house SDK Digital Lab, and found the team curiously philosophical about Google’s change of heart.

SDK’s Atiyya Karodia says that rather than driving the company to despair over wasted investment, the move will force the company to produce better augmented reality (AR) applications that can be used on a variety of devices.

“The halt of Google Glass will not result in a complete halt for our development of Augmented Reality apps, because the nature of Glass has made us realise that an integrated, well adapted application or game that can be accessed on a smartphone, computer or Glass is more beneficial than an exclusive one,” Karodia says.

She also points out that apps built for Glass can also be repurposed as smartphone applications.

“What few people realise is that many of the features Glass was marketed around are available on virtually every smartphone (albeit slower to receive and transmit information and content) and thus, any concepts we do develop would not be affected majorly by Glass being pulled.”

Just because Google’s wearable technology has been removed from the market for now, it doesn’t mean that development for the technology is going to stop.

SDK Digital Lab, and we suspect most app developers in the space, will continue to make faster and better apps for wearable technology, like Epson’s BT 200 “which is far superior to Glass in capabilities,” Karodia says.

Google is one of the biggest companies around and usually don’t cancel programs or hardware on a whim, but often a need arises to rethink and reorganise before moving ahead – which is exactly what they did.

Glass was never commercially available on a large scale, although here in South Africa a popular online retailer imported 25 units for sale, costing customers R27 000 each.

Is there a place for wearable technology like Google Glass in the market right now? Certainly, says Karodia, but maybe not for the version that we know.

“We’ve always been of the opinion that wearable and innovative tech will become a much bigger part of our everyday lives, but to be entirely honest, we were severely underwhelmed from a consumer point of view after receiving Glass and using it for the first few days. In this regard, the lack of attention following Google’s massive hype party isn’t surprising whatsoever. Google marketed the technology in a way which made it seem consumer ready, which it most certainly is not.”

Referring back to Epson’s model, Karodia speculates that Google had to do something in order to stay ahead – and they were acutely aware of it.

“The features of Glass are hardly revolutionary, and when having an innovative tech dark horse like Epson breathing down its neck, it makes sense that Google would take a step back to rethink their approach.”

Regrouping the troops at Google, Karodia postulates that Google’s next release may make use of the augmented reality-meets-virtual reality technology from Magic Leap, a company that Google invested in late last year, to achieve something similar to what Epson is promoting with the BT 200.

If a new version of Glass were to make its way onto the desks of SDK Digital Lab, Karodia says that the firm would jump at the chance to continue app development.

But in the meantime, with Glass’ app development on an indefinite hiatus, SDK has focussed its efforts on another technology that is making a stronger resurgence than ever – virtual reality (VR).

“We are currently developing for the Oculus Rift and incorporating motion tracking technologies like Leap Motion to create engaging and immersive experiences as well as using Eyeball Tracking, Facial Recognition and Facial and Motion Tracking to innovate the world we live in.”

The company’s first Augmented Reality app to work with and have tailored content for feature phones will be available in March, “which will be a huge step toward bridging the gap between the digital world and the real one.”

[Image – CC by 2.0/Ted Eytan]

Charlie Fripp

Charlie Fripp

Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.